Time Out in Tobermory

Photo: Ever-changing: the start of another new and different day.


Isle of Iona, Scotland

It’s been three weeks to the day since setting foot on Scottish soil. The daily rhythm of life and work has gradually fallen into measured steps. The passing of time is marked by the toll of the abbey bell and the appearance of budding flowers and trees as Spring advances. I also realise that since arriving on the island, I have only travelled by foot.



Photos: 1. Daffodils in the early morning light 2. The budding Horse Chesnut trees erupting into life


In the early morning light, walking from my house in the village to the abbey, it is often only the sounds of the sea lapping on the shore, the sweet twitter of birdsong (yes, the real life original type of twitter) and lambs bleating that pierce the stillness.

Sometimes, as my footfall wakes a flock of wild geese, there is also the gentle beating of multiple wings during a hasty take-off.

I love this time of day and often pause to watch the colours of the new day, the light, the sky and clouds; and every time, gratitude wells up and I think somewhat incredulously: “Here I am – living out daily my own, my very own, abbey experience!”

In the afternoon, I will be crossing over to the neighbouring Isle of Mull and travelling the length of the island, to stay the night in Tobermory, as I have a half-day and a full-day off that coincide.

It’s like I am putting my nun-thing on hold because I will be visiting the hairdresser, the whisky distillery and having lunch at the posh Western Isles Hotel. Excitement is rising along with that bright morning sun.


Photo: On the bus: the snow-dusted hills of Mull



Craignure, Isle of Mull, Scotland

I board the 495 bus at Craignure for the third leg of the journey. I squeeze past a lady in a wheel chair and another with the most enormous shopping buggy I have ever seen. The bus is almost full and is alive with spirited chatter. There is such a comfortable familiarity, as most people board and greet the bus driver, and each other by name.

“Alistair, with all this shopping, will you be kind enough to drop me around the corner at home please”.   “Ali, would you mind dropping me by the cash machine after you finish the run please”. “Alistair, I’ve left my card at home, could I fix you up in the morning?”

Listening in to several conversations, I am touched by the warm companionship of lives bound, and lived long together.

“Ooooh, Karen – did you hear the news about Moira MacDonald? I was sworn to secrecy until after 2.30 yesterday afternoon. She and Donald were married after 25 years of livin’ together. They were heading away last night with Calum and Shona. Aye, there’s hope for us all, she being 73 years old and all.”

“I did hear the news from Moira herself and she also swore me to secrecy”! This is followed by much mirth and humorous banter as others confessed to also being in on the “secret”. This sets Kirsty Featherstone (I quickly get to know all their names) off into a coughing fit.

A packet of Soothers is passed from the back of the bus. As she gratefully opens the packet she cranes to see who was responsible: “Ah, Mary Anderson, I didn’t see you hiding down there. Thank you very much. I have had this viral cough for two weeks now and just can’t shift it.”

It’s hard to keep up with all the chat but before long there is a mass-handbag rummaging effort to find an up-to-date timetable and map to help a visiting backpacker, along with a cascade of tips and suggestions for suitable walking tracks.

Then the solemn news of the vandalised window of Gilbert MacIndoe’s new ice-cream van, “not three days on the island. Aye, what is the world coming to”!

Before long I am brought into the fold and am given Kirsty Featherstone’s contact details with an invitation to join the locals, young and old, for dinner at Macgochan’s Pub Tobermory: “any Friday night. Phone me first, and just come along, we’ll all be having a great time together”.

Comments 12

    1. Post

      Thanks Di. There are very few cars on the island and most people walk everywhere – even at night. This pulls the pace of life back several notches and even though the island is small, I still haven’t explored every nook and cranny yet. In so many ways, Iona has the same feel as Lord Howe Island (but without the mountains, the coral and the lagoon). I can completely understand why people return several times. xx

  1. thanks for sharing your experiences Susan. It sounds as if you are able to live very much in the moment in that beautiful confined island

    1. Post

      I think I finally understand what the term “grounded” means! As I walk to and from work and the abbey, I often take the “quick route” through the fields which means dodging the sheep droppings and balancing on the stepping stones over the really boggy bits… not always successfully so hiking boots are “de rigueur”. It has also amazed me how big the island seems – it never seems confined. Living here one has a sense of being perched on the island, and with so much open sea below and endless skies above, I feel like the Laird-ess of the Land.

    1. Post

      Thanks my sweet. I am completely enjoying my time here – it’s hard to encapsulate the magic of this place in words. It’s all been quite unexpected and a huge contrast from life at home. xx

  2. Susan this is a wonderful way to record your journey and to keep us all informed.

    I would love to know what your daily work routine is and photos of your room?

    1. Post

      Thanks lovely Gail. Time has galloped on and I have only just discovered your comment. I will put a post together (and take some pics) of my daily routine and hopefully as the weeks progress, I will get into the swing of a regular posting rhythm.

    1. Post
  3. What a wonderful log of your travels and adventures. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before! I’m working my way through your journey – just fabulous

    1. Post

      Thank you so much Nerida. Life has been a complete whirlwind living on a tiny Scottish island renowned for serenity! With all that wonderful twilight and glorious weather, things are also pretty social so the weeks have passed very quickly indeed with the gap between hitting the sack and rise-and-shine narrowing faster than the speed of light. I am going to be much more disciplined and reserve one night a week when I return to think, and allow the week’s events to percolate, so I can share more on a regular basis. So watch this space! 🙂

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